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Budget secures school jobs in Oak Harbor

There will be no change to Oak Harbor School District’s staffing and programs next year, which left the school board with a pretty straightforward budget Monday night.

The budget totals $48,852,000 compared to last year’s $47,154,000. Officials predict the enrollment trend will stay the same.

“As far as districts that are closer to us, we are the only one not making reductions,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said.

The primary difference is that the district will have to depend on its fund balance to continue paying for staff that used to be paid for by the Student Achievement Fund (I-728).

The fund was slashed by about 70 percent this year, or about $1.7 million.

“It’s not entirely a surprise that they would have funding problems at the state and federal level,” Schulte said. “Everyone saw that more than a year ago.”

The district took precautions to preserve its fund balance over a two-year period, which will offset losses for the next two years. Unable to tell how big the funding problems would be, some districts spent too much of their fund balance to retain staff, Schulte said.

Another significant budget difference is the addition of federal stimulus funds. The funds will allow the district to hire certain additional staff in Special Ed and Title I.

However, these funds will require extra accounting in the district’s business office.

“There are new accounting rules but they haven’t figured out what they are,” Schulte said. “They tell us there are things we have to do but they change their mind, so we have to do it twice.”

This creates additional costs in overtime hours and extra days for staff to meet regulations.

With the passage of the school levy last March, the district will receive its first payment in May 2010. Since the renewal levy was designed to make up for a decrease in state matching funds, the district will use the dollars to restore some classified positions that were cut as a result of decreasing state levy match.

By the end of 2011-2012, the district’s fund balance will be depleted and stimulus dollars are expected to disappear. To avoid forced layoffs, the district will gradually reduce staff with the help of attrition and turnover over the next two years.

Schulte said all of these calculations are under the assumption that federal Impact Aid (given to districts with high military populations) will be funded at the existing level.

“It plays a big role, because it’s a lot of money,” Schulte said.

Impact Aid payments are currently years overdue, and Schulte plans to advocate for it in Washington, D.C. this September.

The school board will be asked to approve the budget at its Aug. 31 meeting at the Oak Harbor School District Office. A public hearing will be held at the time of board approval.

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